Balthasar, Oakes, Crypto-Lefebvrism

This is a minor matter in the grand scheme of things, but an online acquaintance of mine, in a discussion of the somewhat unedifying 2007 First Things debate between Alyssa Pickstick and Fr. Edward Oakes concerning the latter’s groundbreaking critique of Hans Urs von Balthasar (mentioned briefly here), came upon Fr. Oakes’s later commentary on the debate in which he tossed tar-and-feathers in Pickstick’s direction:

When I first read Alyssa Lyra Pitstick, I realized that her arguments depended on three hidden presuppositions: a crypto-Monophysite Christology, a crypto-Jansenist theology of grace, and a crypto-Lefebvrist view of the Church’s teaching office. So in my two responses to her views in First Things, I decided not so much to defend Balthasar as to force Pitstick to remove the “crypto-” prefixes—by having her openly avow this trifecta of revanchist Catholicism. I deny that my attacks were ad hominem, as the letters from Robert Colau and Benjamin Petty claim, for I focused exclusively on her reasoning.

The Lefebvrism can be seen both in her attempt to give catechism lessons to Pope Benedict XVI and in her picking only passages from the Bible that support her argument (ignoring passages that undermine her views, especially from Paul, whom she treats as a proto-Lutheran and therefore to be cordoned off).

Could it be? Could Fr. Oakes actually be responsible for coining the term “crypto-Lefebvrism,” that odious ecclesial posture which, according to at least one zealous persecutor of tradition, has infected the Franciscans of the Immaculate? Even if the term did originate in Oakes’s bullying expedition, it seems to be just as short on a precise meaning in his hands as it is when bandied about by other anti-traditionalists. Still, following Oakes, it would seem that the heart of crypto-Lefebvrism is the gumption to “give catechism lessons to” the Pope. But does that apply to only Benedict XVI or all pontiffs? Given the current situation, I wonder how far Fr. Oakes would press such an accusation.



  1. Adam DeVille
    September 24, 2014

    Well, Fr. Oakes is beyond pressing any accusations as he’s of course dead; and so perhaps I should not say anything lest I run afoul of the “speak no ill of the dead” rule. But still I will venture an at least semi-critical question about his rhetorical tricks: is sticking a prefix like “crypto” or “neo” onto someone or some position not one of the handiest and fastest ways to insinuate “mauvaises intentions” to an opponent without having to say anything else, much less provide evidence? It all sounds so sinister that way.

    1. modestinus
      September 24, 2014

      I had no idea he had passed. Requiescant in pace.

    2. Dale
      September 24, 2014

      Dr deVille, very, very true…and it works. Unfortunately.


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